Confession and Reconciliation
About the Guest
Selfishness runs in our DNA. That's why we need to make confession and forgiveness a part of our lifestyle, according to Paul David Tripp. Paul recalls a time in his own marriage when his eyes were opened to his own anger issues, and he was finally in a place where God could change and restore him.
Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write 17 books on Christian living, produce 14 teaching series and travel aroun...more
Paul recalls a time in his own marriage when his eyes were opened to his own anger issues.
Confession and Reconciliation
Bob: In many marriages today—where couples are experiencing isolation, or loneliness, or even thinking about divorce—the issues that have caused them to be isolated turn out to be trivial issues. Here’s author and conference speaker Paul David Tripp.
Paul: “I can’t believe that I’ve married this guy who leaves his towel on the bathroom floor. I never thought I’d marry a dropper. My mom married a dropper, and I told myself I’d never marry a dropper. I’ve married a dropper, I can’t believe it! And if he loved me, he wouldn’t be dropping his towel!”
You think, “It’s a towel!” How is it that we’ve gotten life down to that level, where those little things are the places where we’re living, and keeping score, and skirmishing? It is crazy! Where is God in all of that? He’s gone! “Jesus has left the building.” He’s not a part of that relationship.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today forTuesday, November 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you’re starting to feel like maybe Jesus has left your marriage, stay with us. We’ll talk about it today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. It’s always fun when we get a chance to sit down and talk with somebody who was a partner with us in the development of The Art of Marriage® video series. We have that chance today—having Paul David Tripp join us.
Paul was one of the experts that we interviewed—along with Crawford Loritts, and Voddie Baucham, and Michael Easley, Al Mohler, Russell Moore—people we talked to as we built out The Art of Marriage video series for couples—
which, by the way, has now been seen by more than 350,000 people who have gone through an Art of Marriage Friday night / Saturday event.
It occurred to us recently—that with Valentine’s Day, in 2014, coming on a Friday—that might be a weekend that some of our listeners would want to host one of these events in their local church or in their community. This is really something anybody can host—you can have a marriage that needs help, and you can host one of these events—really, we’ve had that happen.
We’ve also seen churches that have started hosting these events, once a year, and inviting folks to come, either as a refresher or inviting new folks who are a part of the church to come and experience The Art of Marriage. So, with Valentine’s Day in mind this year, we thought, “What if we went to our FamilyLife Today listeners and offered to partner with them in hosting one of these events?” If you’ll agree to host the event, we will send you the event kit for free.
Here’s how that works: You go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You click on the link for The Art of Marriage. We make arrangements to send you a certificate for a free event kit. You can cash in that certificate when you are ready to order manuals for your event. So, as long as you have, at least, five couples showing up for you event—you call in to order the manuals, you cash in the certificate, you get the free event kit.
It’s just our way of saying, “Let’s do something to strengthen marriages together in this culture,” because the need is there. We just need your help in pulling this off. If you’ll round up some folks, we’ll partner with you, and we’ll throw in the event kit. We can make this happen.
The offer for the free event kit is good through Thanksgiving. You can get the certificate between now and Thanksgiving. Then, you can cash it in anytime between now and February, when you’re ready to order manuals for your upcoming event; okay? And if you have any questions about The Art of Marriage, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for The Art of Marriage. It will answer most of the questions you have.
As I’ve been thinking about marriage this week, and about back when Mary Ann and I first got married, I was thinking, “I wonder what she would say was the unexpected thing about me that she found most annoying when we first got married?”
Dennis: You and I have not been married, but I could tell you a few! [Laughter]
Bob: I suppose you could! I suppose you could. I think, in her case—I don’t know that this lasted for a long time—but the first Saturday morning, after we had been married—she’s an early riser, and I’m more of a sleeper-inner; you know?
Dennis: Yes, like how late would you sleep in on Saturday morning?
Bob: Well, in college—
Dennis: Just give us a little context.
Bob: In college—
Dennis: Well, I understand in college; but I’m talking about after you got married.
Bob: Well, it wasn’t that far after college that I got married. So, I hadn’t had many Saturdays other than my college Saturdays. In college, I’d sleep until lunch—you know, until 11.
Dennis: Meanwhile, Mary Ann’s getting up at 6.
Bob: She’ll just wake up when the sun gets up.
Dennis: She’s been up half the day by the time you’re crawling out of the sheets.
Bob: So, the first Saturday morning—that we were man and wife—9:00—I’m still sacked-out. Room is dark; it’s good. Life is good. [Chuckles] She’s been up for a couple of hours around the house. It’s kind of lonely without her husband up. So, she came in and raised the shades in the bedroom—9:00 in the morning.
I thought: “What? What—who is this person, and who let them into my house?” I peered out from one eye and said, “What are you doing?” That kind of hurt her feelings when I said that—you know, it was kind of my first impression. I think she said, “Good morning,”—I said, “What are you doing?” She said, “Well, it is 9:00.” I said, “Yes?” She got that I didn’t really want to wake up; so she left the room. I lay there; and I thought, “This is not good.” [Laughter]
So, I decided, about an hour-and-a-half later, to get up and go on out into the kitchen. I went ahead and slept for a little while longer and walked out—and we had this: “Why did you come raise the shade?” “Well,” she said, “My dad used to get up on Saturday mornings and start in on his to-do list.” I thought, “Well, you didn’t marry your dad; and aren’t you glad?” You know?
It was just this little kind of eye-opening—if you’ll pardon the pun—moment in our marriage, where we kind of looked at each other and thought, “You had expectations that I didn’t know anything about, and I had some expectations you didn’t know anything about.”
Dennis: Yes, and I’m going to ask our resident counselor, who joins us again on FamilyLife Today, Paul David Tripp. Paul—welcome back to the broadcast.
Paul: Thank you.
Dennis: I’m going to ask you because you head up a counseling ministry—you write, you speak, you teach. You’ve written a book called What Did You Expect? It’s talking about expectations.
I mean, here’s Mary Ann, who thinks the day’s going to start with her husband when she starts it. All of a sudden, it’s a rude awakening—pardon the pun on my side there, too. This marriage is going to need to practice forgiveness, and reconciliation, and restoration; right?
Paul: That’s right.
Dennis: Where do they begin as you look at the issue of forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration?
Paul: Here’s where I think the realistic expectations are so important—that if it’s a sinner / flawed person married to a flawed person—if that DNA of selfishness is there—confession and forgiveness needs to be a regular, daily lifestyle. We go in, knowing we need this pattern.
One other thing I think that’s very helpful—if, as a couple, you give the other person permission to cry, “Foul,” so they have the permission to come to you.
I don’t think the average person wants to be confronted. What happens when you’re confronted? Someone comes to you; and right away, it activates your inner lawyer. I’m more concerned about your inner lawyer than your inner child because I think your inner lawyer is actually more active. [Laughter] And you start defending yourself—
Dennis: Defense attorney.
Paul: Yes, and you’re not thankful. You’re not willing. You don’t hear. Well, the Bible speaks against that.
I’m a bit of a mess. Jesus is not done with me yet. I need a wife to talk to me. I need those little things pointed out to me. Why would I want to defend myself when that only leads to bad stuff?
Dennis: I want to talk about confession, in just a moment, because I don’t think the Christian community—and I’m talking about the community of faith—people who profess to follow Christ—know how to truly confess, either with God or with their spouse.
But I want to back up to the little interaction you’re talking about where you go to Luella, your wife, and you confront her about something she said or did to disappoint you, or hurt you, etc.
Coach a man / coach a woman on how you go because it’s not just a matter of picking up a spiritual two-by-four and whacking the other person between the eyes. There is a way we go to our spouse in marriage that can gain a hearing and have a great chance, of not only of our spouse hearing what we said, but perhaps repenting and saying they’re sorry for what they did.
Paul: Well, again, you don’t do it by getting up in a person’s face—and bulging eyes, bulging veins, inflammatory words, pointed finger—because no one ever feels open in those moments. No one ever feels helped by those moments. That just stimulates that inner lawyer.
Dennis: So, no emotional escalation should occur, at this point?
Paul: Yes. In fact, if I’m going to get at your heart, I have to get a hold of my heart first. So, I got to step away from the moment a little bit.
Let me give you a particular. I’m a very time-oriented guy. I know life is a series of agendas for me. I’m project-oriented. I know exactly what I want to accomplish every day. I know exactly what hour everything should take place. Think of what it’s like to live with me! [Laughter]
So, Monday is the day that Luella and I spend with one another—sacrosanct. There’s a particular Monday where she has to be away. We’ve agreed that it’s good for her to be away, but she’s supposed to be home at 4:00. Four-o-five [4:05], I’m already uptight. So, I make one of those dear, sweet calls to her on the cell phone: “Where are you?”—one word. She says, “Well, I’m just a little distance from home.”
“How long are you going to be?”—one word. She says, “Well, I’m stuck in traffic.” I’m being impatient—nasty for no reason, at all. She’s stuck in traffic. It’s all about my selfish little self. Ten minutes doesn’t make a bit of difference in that moment. So, Luella doesn’t come to the door and say to me: “You know what it’s like to live with you?
I don’t need your junk when I’m in traffic! Get off my back and leave me alone! I’m tired of your time-stuff!” That doesn’t benefit her; doesn’t benefit me. We haven’t grown in unity, and love, and understanding a bit.
But Luella doesn’t do that. Later on, in the evening, she says to me: “You know I love you. You know I have loved being part of your life. I have loved being a part of your ministry. I love the journey we’re taking, but there are times when you’re a bit of a crazy man.” And we both laugh. She said: “Like this afternoon. It didn’t make any difference, Paul; but think about what’s going on for me. You don’t say, ‘I’m so excited to see you in a few minutes.’ You’re beating me up for something I didn’t have anything to do with.” I say: “You know—you are right. Please forgive me and help me. I need help. Time becomes too important to me; and when it does, it creates problems for us.”
Now, a lot of my willingness has to do with the way Luella approached me because she’s thinking: not, “How can I tell this man how hard it is to live with him?” She’s thinking, “How can I be an instrument, in God’s hands, in the life of this man?” That’s big kingdom-stuff. Little kingdom-stuff is, “I want to tell you what it’s like to live with you.”
Dennis: What Luella really models for us, there, is Ephesians 4, where it says: “Speaking the truth in love.”
Now, I want you to comment on confession because I think there are a lot of Christians who are real sneaky or cheap on their confession. They don’t want to admit to much. They want to say, “Well, I’m sorry you felt that way;” but that hasn’t been a confession of anything. They don’t want to admit anything that they’re doing is wrong.
Comment, if you would, about: “What is the appropriate way for us to confess to our spouse when we have hurt them, done something wrong, omitted something we should have done?” because I think we need help here.
Paul: Well, I want to say a couple of things. I think that what erodes confession is self-righteousness because I want to believe that my biggest problem is outside of me, not inside of me. That will always weaken confession. I’m going to hurt the feelings of everyone who’s listening: “All of us are very skilled self-swindlers because we want to think that we’re more righteous than we are, and that always erodes confession.”
Here’s what confession is—it’s owning personal responsibility for my words and behavior, before God and the appropriate people, without excuse or shifting the blame. That’s confession. Most of what we call confession just isn’t.
Bob: Tell our listeners about when you got to the point, in your relationship with Luella, around the anger issue that you made genuine confession and how that event transpired.
Paul: Well I was on a ministry weekend with my brother, Ted. On our way home, he said: “Paul, shouldn’t we make this weekend practical to our own lives? Why don’t you start?” He began to ask me questions about my marriage. It was as if God was ripping down curtains, and I saw myself in ways I had never seen myself before. I heard myself. I heard all of the things that Luella had said.
Dennis: You’d been married how long, at this point?
Paul: Maybe 10/15 years.
Paul: I was the pastor. There was a huge disconnect between my public persona and my private life. It was a disaster. I went home that night—now, very broken, very grieved—because I saw myself. That’s the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. I’m a guy with a lively sense of humor—I come into the house goofy. I came into the house, serious; and Luella knew something was up.
I said, “Could we talk?” I said: “I know, for years, you have been trying to talk to me about my anger—its impact on our marriage. I’ve always defended myself.” One time, I told her that 95 percent of the women at our church would love to be married to a man like me. How is that for humility? Luella very quickly informed me that she was in the
5 percent. [Laughter]
That night, when I said to her, “I’m willing to listen,” I’ll never forget what happened next. She told me she loved me, and she burst into tears. She told me she loved me and she talked for two hours—that two hours was not a zap of lightning—it wasn’t an event where I was changed—but this is important to get—I was, now, a man with open eyes, open ears, and open heart. I saw anger everywhere. I became a spiritually-needy man. That’s a very good thing!
A process of change began. I’ll never forget—one afternoon, coming down the steps in our house, into the living room. I saw Luella sitting, with her back to me, waiting for some of our children to come home from school. I couldn’t remember the last time I experienced that old, ugly anger. Now, I was still capable of a flash of irritation, but that life-dominating anger was gone.
I put my hands on her shoulders; and I said, “You know, I’m not angry at you anymore.” She looked up at me, with tears in her eyes. We laughed and cried, at that moment. It was a process—not an event—but that confession, and repentance, and forgiveness was a very, very significant part of that process.
Dennis: Paul, I think, if the Christian community—on a ten-point scale—scores a five in confessing and forgiving one another, we score a one or a two on reconciliation and restoration. Let’s continue on with the illustration of your anger.
How were you reconciled and restored in your relationship with your wife, coming out of this situation where you confessed? I assume—sought her forgiveness—and she gave you her forgiveness—but how were you then, in that process, reconciled and then restored?
Paul: Well, if confession and forgiveness is a lifestyle, it must be followed with a commitment to growth and change. I love the call to Jeremiah. It is: “I’m sending you to uproot and to plant, to tear down and to build.” So, I had to say to Luella: “Help me. What are the weeds that need to be pulled? What are the habits of my anger? Help me because I’ve been blind.” I did not see myself as an angry man. So, you have to address with specificity.
Repentance is a change of heart that leads to a change in the direction of your life. You have to get concrete. Then, you pull weeds; and you plant seeds. What are the replacements that God is calling you to? So, here’s one: “I don’t view my schedule as more important than my spouse.” I have to plant that seed. Now, what does that mean for me?
Dennis: Do you tell her that as well—
Paul: Sure, absolutely.
Dennis: —so that she can hold you accountable?
Paul: Absolutely, because I need help. So, if you confess sin, you have to pull weeds, plant seeds, and then you have to ask the question, “Where has trust been damaged, and how can I rebuild trust?”
Here is what I think is exciting about that. This big, weird concept of worship—we now make it real specific. It’s very practical. “I love God more than anything else,”—so I’m going to admit my sin, and I’m going to ask for forgiveness. “I love God more than anything else,”— so I’m not going to live my way—pull up weeds. I’m going to live His way—plant seeds.
“I love God, and I know He’s honored by this relationship being a trusting relationship. It’s a place where people can see His kingdom operating, and they can get help. So, I want to build trust.”
Dennis: What you’ve just talked about, in terms of a process, is something I don’t think we come into marriage with hardly any true skills. We may know the Scriptures—that: “Yes, we’re supposed to speak the truth in love,” “Yes, we’re to forgive,” “We’re to confess,” “We’re to be reconciled,” “We’re to be restored;” but we need help in being able to do that.
That’s why I really like what you’ve written about, here in your book, What Did You Expect? You’ve helped people—who disappoint each other, who hurt one another—practically—as two broken people move toward oneness—move toward oneness with God, and His agenda, and His will—but also oneness with one another and seeking the best for the one loved.
Bob: It’s not only a theme that you explore in the book—What Did You Expect?—but it’s something that we had you talk about when we interviewed you for The Art of Marriage. Paul is one of the dozen or more folks who speak on the subject of marriage as part of The Art of Marriage video series—along with Voddie Baucham, and Crawford Loritts, and Dennis Rainey, and Michael Easley, and Al Mohler, and Russell Moore, and a whole bunch of other folks—who offer practical, biblical counsel on marriage in this day-and-a-half video event that now 350,000 people have viewed over the last two-and-a-half years.
Again, we’re aiming for Valentine’s Day, in 2014, as a strategic date when you could host an Art of Marriage event. In fact, some of you have already hosted one. This would be a good time to host a second event or a third event in your church. And if you’ve never hosted one, here’s all you have to do:
You go to your pastor and you say, “Would you be willing to let us host an Art of Marriage event, here at the church, on a Friday night and a Saturday—maybe, Valentine’s weekend?” And I’m guessing that your pastor is going to say, “I would love for you guys to host an event like this.”
And we want to pitch in and help out. So, here’s what we’re asking you to do: Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says “ART OF MARRIAGE”. We’ll get you a certificate that’s good for a free event kit—that’s got the DVDs, it has the workbook, it has a leader’s guide—everything you need so you can host this event. Then, once you are ready to order manuals for your event—and you have, at least, five couples coming—you can cash in your certificate, at that point, for the free event kit; alright?
Right now, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link for The Art of Marriage so you can get your free certificate. Go to your pastor—see if you can line up a date. Let’s see if we can’t get a couple of thousand churches hosting an event, like this, on Valentine’s weekend or sometime this spring.
Okay? Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
You can also order Paul David Tripp’s book, What Did You Expect?, which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s available for order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can order by phone. 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number; 1-800-358-6329; that’s1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
You know, this has been an exciting year, here at FamilyLife, as we have seen more and more people connecting with this ministry. We’ve had tens of thousands of guys who, this year, have gone through the Stepping Up® video series that our team put together. We’ve had thousands of couples attend an Art of Marriage weekend or a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.
And of course, we have more people, than ever, listening to FamilyLife Today on the internet, through our mobile app, or on local radio stations, all across the country. We have you guys to thank for that because, without your partnership—without your financial support—none of this would be happening. So, we are grateful for your support of this ministry.
In fact, this month, if you’re able to make a donation to help support the work of FamilyLife Today—help advance our mission—we’d like to say, “Thank you,” with a new resource from Barbara Rainey, designed to help you spark some meaningful conversation around the dinner table at Thanksgiving or at Christmas this year.
It’s a resource called Untie Your Story. It’s a thank-you gift we would love to send you when you go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says “I CARE” to make an online donation or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone. Just ask for the Untie Your Storyresource when you call. Or you can request the resource and mail your check to FamilyLife Today at P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and the zip code is 72223.
And we hope you can be back with us tomorrow when we’re going to talk about how we understand what real love is supposed to look like because we have it confused in our culture today. Paul David Tripp is going to be back with us tomorrow. Hope you can be here, as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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